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Beck Cultural Exchange Center places white roses on lawn in honor of formerly enslaved Black people

The Juneteenth Memorial Tribute was unveiled at 10 a.m. on Saturday, paying tribute and honoring the 157 years since enslaved people were set free in the U.S.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Beck Cultural Center planned four days of events to celebrate Juneteenth in Knoxville. They started on Friday with a racial justice discussion that was streamed on the organization's YouTube channel.

One of the events on Saturday also includes a Juneteenth Memorial Tribute. White flowers were placed on the lawn of the Beck Center at 10 a.m. in honor of people who were formally enslaved in the U.S. It is also meant to celebrate the 157 years since enslaved people learned they were free on June 19, 1865.

The event is being organized with the Piano Project of Knoxville. It is free to attend.

Juneteenth originated in Galveston, Texas, after the end of the Civil War. The Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 declared enslaved people in the Confederate states legally free. 

"Union soldiers, many of whom were black, marched onto plantations and across cities in the south reading small copies of the Emancipation Proclamation spreading the news of freedom in the Confederate States," describes the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

But the proclamation couldn't be enforced in places still under Confederate control. For the enslaved people of Texas, freedom wouldn't come until after the end of the Civil War. 

On June 19, 1865, Union Major Gen. Gordon Granger and his troops arrived in Galveston Bay, announcing that the quarter-million enslaved Black people in Texas were free by executive decree. 

That was more than two months after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in Virginia. 

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